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This 10.2-mile long trail follows Bear Creek upstream.

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Point to Point

4,280' 1,305 m


1,639' 500 m


1,053' 321 m


2,709' 826 m



Avg Grade (4°)


Max Grade (18°)

Dogs Leashed

Features Commonly Backpacked · River/Creek · Views · Wildlife

Family Friendly Lower portion of trail is ideal for families enjoying a gentle, streamside hike.

No bicycles on trail inside of wilderness. Adventure Pass required for parking.

Need to Know

Adventure Pass required to park at West Fork Day Use Area and at the Upper Bear Creek Trailhead on Highway 39. No campfires are allowed.


This trail got its name from the many encounters with grizzly bears that the pioneers had along the creek. The trail follows Bear Creek up an easy grade for about 4.5 miles before it branches off and begins ascending a gully. At mile 7, the trail reaches a saddle north of Smith Mountain. From here, the trail descends 3 miles ending at Highway 39.

To reach the lower trailhead, take Hwy. 39 from Azusa to the West Fork Picnic Area located on the west side of the highway immediately after crossing the bridge over the West Fork. Cross the pedestrian bridge and follow the paved road upstream for about 1 mile to where it crosses the stream. Turn left and go past the trail signs and under the bridge. The trail follows the stream for 4.5 miles then ascends steeply up to Smith Mountain Saddle.

There are 2 primitive trail camps about 1 mile past the road (no campfires allowed). The first 2 miles are in good shape with many stream crossings but the trail condition deteriorates where the canyon makes a large bend and narrows. From there, one has to follow ducks and ribbons marking the route through the canyon bottom and is recommended for experienced hikers only.

To reach the upper trailhead, take Hwy. 39 from Azusa to the wide parking area approximately 0.2 miles south of Coldbrook Campground. There is a restroom, picnic tables, trash cans and a wilderness information sign. The trail gently climbs 3 miles of mostly shadeless chaparral to Smith Mountain Saddle then descends 2.5 miles down to Bear Creek. Follow the stream down about 50' then cross it to pick up the trail on the west side where it passes a meager trail camp.

A popular destination is Smith Mountain (5111'). Take the upper trail 3 miles from Hwy. 39 to Smith Mountain Saddle then head south to climb the steep ridge for about 0.5 miles to the summit.

Thanks to John McKinney, The Trailmaster, for sharing this trail description. To learn more about trails in California, check out his guides at The Trailmaster Store.

Flora & Fauna

Bears, fish, oaks, alders, maple and sycamore trees. Big cone spruce on upper trail. Abundant poison oak.


Shared By:

John McKinney with improvements by Alan Coles

Trail Ratings

  3.0 from 6 votes


in East Fork


  3.0 from 6 votes
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Trail Rankings


in East Fork


in California


10 Views Last Month
4,326 Since Aug 8, 2017
Difficult Difficult



View from Smith Mountain Saddle looking east towards Hawkins Ridge.
Dec 26, 2017 near Glendora, CA
Entering San Gabriel Wilderness at Smith Mountain Saddle
Dec 17, 2017 near Glendora, CA
View from Smith Mountain Saddle looking southwest towards Mt. Wilson.
Dec 26, 2017 near Glendora, CA
Bear Creek at location where upper trail reaches canyon bottom
Dec 17, 2017 near Glendora, CA
Old-growth manzanita forest on upper trail.
Dec 17, 2017 near Glendora, CA
Tread issues on upper trail
Dec 26, 2017 near Glendora, CA


Current Trail Conditions

Add Your Check-In


Dec 10, 2022
Edward Kwon
Apr 17, 2022
Eddy Penaloza
Nov 15, 2020
Adolfo Adame Vega
Mar 30, 2019
Christopher Losorelli
The creek is the trail and it's running with a lot of water and dozens of crossings. From Smith Mountain south the trail gone & isn't maintained. 11mi — 9h 00m
May 19, 2018
Adolfo Adame Vega
Apr 21, 2018
Eric B
Apr 15, 2018
Mansour Niroumand

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